“Howdy!” I said into the microphone, praying my voice didn’t crack.
The room instantly grew silent and a resounding, “HOWDY!” came back at me.
“That’s so cool!” I saidÂ under my breath.
It was April 21, 2008, and it was the first time I chaired Muster for the Middle Tennessee Texas A&M Club. It was also the first time I addressed a large group of Aggies at one time. My hands shook, and I hoped what I learned in public speaking in college eightÂ years prior would come back to me as I went along. Â Little did I know, this was only the first of countless other events I’d find myself in front of Aggies over the next several years.
My journey as an Aggie started long before I was born. My grandfather (on my dad’s side) and my uncle (on my mom’s side) both worked at Texas A&M in the mess hall (cafeteria to other universities.) Later my dad attended Texas A&M, pursuing an Accounting degree.
I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a healthy dose of maroon and white in my wardrobe. My high school happened to be maroon & grey, and Fridays we were encouraged to wearÂ the school colors. I’d guess a solid 90% of the time (the other 10% were high school days in band and color guard) I wore something Texas A&M to school.
I. Bleed. Maroon.
The ONLY Â university I applied to in high school was Texas A&M. It would have been considered foolish had the top 10% rule not applied then, and I was guaranteed acceptance. But I am pretty sure had that notÂ applied, I would have still only submitted ONE application.
While I did opt to attend Temple College for two years first (a financial decision I am very grateful for today!), through friends who went straight to A&M, I still got to experience some key things… like the candle light walk and Midnight Yell after Bonfire collapsed inÂ 1999, and “the 12th Man’s Finest Hour” when we, going in as the underdogs, came back to defeat the Longhorns that November day.
While at Texas A&M, I worked at the school newspaper,Â The Battalion, and, ironically, that was the extent of my involvement as a student.
Oh I attended Yell and football games. I did make it to one Silver Taps, and Muster was something I could not miss. I got tickets to a few shows with MSC Opas. And of course there was E-Walk, and Elephant Walk.
I was standing with my fellow Aggies in the MSC when I found out about the towers falling on 9/11. I sat on George Bush Drive in the gridlock that night, trying to get to Reed Arena for memorial that night (eventually giving up and going home). I was in the red section of the Red, White and Blue Out game.
I lived off-campus, actually opting to drive an hour one-way for most of my time at A&M. Gas wasn’t so expensive back then, and I chose a new truck over an apartment. (IÂ even hadÂ personalized A&M plates!)
When I graduated, I wrote “Happy Hour” across my cap. An ironic foreshadowing of my days to come as a bartender? Perhaps. But it was a proud moment when I walked across that stage and shook hands with Robert Gates, who would later become the 22nd United States Secretary of Defense .
Since I was a transfer student, I didn’t receive my Aggie Ring until after I graduated… but it stands as one of my most prized possessions. I never leave home without it on, and I stare at it now and then in awe that I have it. Its one of my favorite things to photograph. When I sent it off to be fixed, when the band cracked, I felt naked without it… and the day it was shipped back to me I slept on the couch beside the front door so I could be RIGHT THERE when it came home.
You’d have to be an Aggie to understand all it means.
When I moved to Nashville, the only friends I had were ones through my (future) husband. And while I was so grateful for those friends, a big part of me was determined to reach out and make friends on my own. My first place to look: the local A&M club.
I was disappointed to find the club was disjointed, and barely even able to be called a club at that time. Through a series of emails, I finally reached out to someone who was trying to bring it back to life and he invited me to join him and some other Aggies to watch the Texas A&M vs Oklahoma game that weekend. With my fiance on the road for work, I set out all by myself with a GPS in my new city to find new friends. Without a doubt one of the gutsiest things I’ve ever done… and without a doubt one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Over the course of the next year, I slowly immersed myself into the club… gently taking over many of the reins. I pretty much made myself an officer, and before I knew it I felt I had a very solid group of Aggie friends to call my own.
It all led up to organizing Muster in 2008, and every single year since then. This year will be my 9th year as chair.
But every year, our club grew. Every year, more Aggies started to appear and become friends. The year we hit over 100 Aggies in attendance for Muster was the year I thought, “Wow! We did it! This is huge!”
Texas A&M joined the SEC.
To say that day didn’t leave me in something of a cold sweat would be an understatement. Because it meant SOMEDAY, Texas A&M would be coming to town. And I had placed myself right in the hot seat of planning all the events around their game versus Vanderbilt.
Suddenly that first, “Howdy!” was a distant memory and not such a big deal after all…
In the mean time, another door opened for me in the form of a golf tournament. I don’t golf. I don’t know a darn thing about golf. But I know bartending events. I know photography. And I love, love, love helping others.
The Nashville ACC-SEC Leadership Counsel came into my life, and it brought with it more friendships. I found myself embracing the opportunity to spend time with the amazing people of this group… and I marveled over the respect I received from fellow SEC alumni. I was able to represent my university and put my own talents to work to help an awesome organization: CASA.
I’ll continue being part of this group as long as possible.
News came Aggies wouldÂ be coming to Nashville in 2015. Quickly this becameÂ the game the Association of Former Students started getting the most inquires about attending. Nashville being the “It” city that it is, Aggies were going to travel to visit.
Fast forward through stressing and planning, and building an extremely solid group of amazing Aggies around the execution of the events we were to put on… the day came.
A year of planning. A year of worry. A year of logistics all came down to the night we hit capacity at Wildhorse Saloon and Aggies started to beÂ turned away — no one could have even fathomed that large of an attendance. No one.
Over 2,000 Aggies packed the three story venue. And even as my heart broke over the Aggies being turned away, I felt myself overwhelmed with awe of my University… the very University I was born to attend some day.
The next day’s tailgate was just as overwhelming and amazing. By game time, I found myself wanting nothing but to sit in silence and take it all in… take in every second. Process every success and every failure.
At one point, aÂ group of girls seemed to appear out of nowhere and join me at the firepit we had at the tailgate. These ladies were just what I needed in that moment. They hadÂ passion and excitement for all it meant to be an Aggie while also clearly being on the path to being professionals in their fields. They made me smile, and they grounded me from two days of madness. Making sure these women and all the Aggies visiting Music City had a good time was what it all meant.
As I hugged the necks of the representatives of the Association of Former Students, saying good bye to these new friends I so respected and appreciated, I felt relief but also a lot of sadness that it was all over. Â I wasn’t ready to say good bye….
But silly me. Two weeks later we found out the Aggies were coming BACK to Nashville for the Music City Bowl. Hey, lets do all this over again, but plan it in two weeks with Christmas right in the middle. I felt myself pressuring myself to do even better that last time.
However, this time, the Association took the lead, and I was able to relax a bit more and enjoy. Plus, since we had JUST done all these events, we knew better what to expect and how to handle it all. (By the way, though, a bowl game versus a regular season game… two totally different beasts. I learned SO MUCH about the bowl process this year!)
December 30th, I said a much more definitive good bye to the Association representatives. Okay, more like, “See ya later” but still… I definitely felt sad to see them leave. I truly enjoy them as people, and I hope to maintain friendships with them for years to come.
As we drove away from Nissan Stadium that night, I found myself feeling like my Aggie journey had lead me to that moment. We did it. We pulled off hosting Aggies in our city TWICE in less than six weeks. That was huge…
I truly believe everything you do in life is getting you ready for the next step. Life lead me to Texas A&M. The last nineÂ years prepared me for the game dayÂ events, as every Muster taught me something more about event planning.
Then the Vanderbilt game and the Music City BowlÂ lead me to learn how to delegate and give directionÂ versus doing it all myself. It taught me to let go and trust others to do the job they have agreed to do… something I had always had a hard time with doing.
Finally, I have made connections and contacts that I will hold dearly and respectfully for years to come — both personally and professionally.
My Aggie journey began long before I was even born…
…and it has a long way to go.
I can’t wait to see whats next. Gig’em, y’all. And God Bless.